02/04/2013 05:08 pm ET Updated Apr 04, 2013

Here's How Controversy and Engagement Are Shaping This Year's Social Super Bowl Ads

Two things are happening in this year's race to Super Bowl advertising greatness:
1. Early social buzz and engagement are critical. Nearly everyone's released their ads and ad teasers early this year. That's because YouTube research shows that ads that ran online before the Super Bowl in 2012 got 9 million views versus those who waited until after with only 1.3 million

On the engagement front, I had the chance to speak with Tongal's co-founder James DeJulio about the Dunder Mifflin Campaign (yes, THE Dunder Mifflin from The Office). This newly defictionalized brand's ad was crowdsourced and will debut in the 3rd quarter (in Scranton, PA only).

2. Controversy may have unintended consequences. Controversy can be good for creating buzz. But it can also backfire. You better have a top flight brand management team on board to handle blowback, especially with well-loved consumer brands. Fans will laugh with your brand or cry with your brand, but they don't like to be insulted. And that may be what's going to happen with Coke and VW.

Coke's Mirage ad is a big gamble and betrays the brand's 'happiness' DNA. We discussed this last week in my Power of Brand class at UCLAx. In addition to the horrible stereotyped characters, the theme itself is a 'fight to the finish' and completely incongruous with the brand's core identity. The topper is that an Arab-American group has deemed it racist and wants it changed. The online teaser has racked up close to 2 million views, but is Coke going to insult fans and viewers in order to be memorable? Coke, you're doing it wrong!

See the Pepsi Next parody to see how it's done. This commercial was released on Funny or Die on Super Bowl Sunday.

Then there's Volkswagen. According to Radian6, in the week ending January 31, 2013, Volkswagen was the most mentioned brand, with its ad featuring a Caucasian man speaking with a Jamaican accent. It has already been pronounced by some as unfunny and stupid. Ouch. VW says it's all about being happy (there's that word again) and the video has over 5 million views, but again, to what end?

Public pressure has been stiff and we may see last-minute corrections from these brands. And other brands are planning 'game-day reveal' as a way to make an impact. We'll see.

One way to track that in real-time is via Twitter hashtags. With the volume of Tweets expected during this year's game, brands don't want to let their hashtags go rogue. ESPN notes that:

One of this year's prop bets is "What will be the highest tweet-per-second rate during the Super Bowl?" The bar is set at over or under 17,000. And while this in no way constitutes gambling advice, that number might seem a bit low considering Last year's game twice set a record for most tweets during a sporting event, first with Madonna's halftime show (10,245 tweets per second), topped by the game's dramatic finish (12,233 tweets per second).

Wow. While most of those tweets will be for #RayLewis or #49ers, a ton will go to the commercials. Going to be quite a game, in more ways than one and I can't wait to see who wins!

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the author of Business Meets the Power of Social Media. She teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for UCLAx. Email her at